In the end all you can hope for is the love you felt to equal the pain you've gone through


Song of the day: "Bones" by Editors.

The Best Care Anywhere: Saying Goodbye to My Stay at the M*A*S*H 4077


"War was hell--and hellishly funny."  - Entertainment Weekly

I have M*A*S*H as one of my 'likes' on Facebook, and last week they had a post stating that September 17th was the 40th anniversary of the airing of the show's pilot.  My heart sank a little, as I was still about 5 episodes away from the finale.  I wanted some kind of sweet serendipity with the show's anniversary, but accepted that wasn't going to happen, and that was fine, I didn't want to rush my final episodes with the show in order to reach a deadline.

As I went through old posts I'd written about my journey watching this show, I wanted to find my very first post about buying the DVDs of season 1, so I could know how long it had taken me to finish all 11 seasons in broadcast order.  I found the post, dated September 19th, 2011.  I thought, "Wow, that's so close to the anniversary!  I had no idea!"  But then when I read the post, I realized I said I had bought the DVD on Saturday.  The 19th was Monday.  THE SEVENTEENTH WAS THAT SATURDAY.  Waaaay back in September 2011, with no knowledge of the original pilot's air date, I wandered into the discount DVD section of Barnes and Noble, and started this wonderful experience.  39 years--to the day--the show itself started.  I am baffled and bemused.

I'm also a little amazed that I completed the show in 1 year, give or take a few days.  It seemed so much shorter, but also like I've been watching it every night for my whole life.

In that post I also mentioned that as a kid I would have dreams about Hawkeye Pierce.  What I didn't say was that they were of a romantical nature.  Well, 11 seasons later, I am here to tell you that pre-pubescent Maryann had excellent taste in men.  He was and remains my favorite character.  Did you know that Alan Alda wore the same chain of dogtags and the same pair of boots for all 11 seasons?  Incredible.

It's sort of hard for me to write about what going through this show has meant for me, how's it made me feel.  The nostalgia is so thick and the experience of watching it alone every night before bed was so singular, I can't possibly describe how attached and endeared I felt to this band of characters.  So I'm going to let someone else say it.  The following quote is from a real Church bulletin, dated March 20, 1983 (about a month after the finale aired):

I've tried to analyze why I care so much about this show.  Partially, it is because of the fact that drivel is the rule rather than the exception on modern TV that M*A*S*H is such a shining star.  Also, a lot of the escapism that is presented keeps us focused away from our own problematic realities.  But, M*A*S*H plugged me into the dreariest, most depressing of events -- Reality.  It made reality fun or at least bearable...  In essence, M*A*S*H was more of a church than a hospital.  The characters were human.  They cared and erred, they had clay feet and compassionate hearts, they had smart mouths and sensitive souls.  They were a family, sometimes more, sometimes less like the family of God.  To me, they were a symbol of hope in the midst of tragedy, caring in the midst of the ultimate injustice, Life in the midst of death.
(If you think this is too high praise, then you have not watched all 11 seasons.  Or if you did and you still think that, you and I can never be friends.  A huge loss to you, I'm sure.)

My Top 5 Favorite M*A*S*H Quotes (all Hawkeye, of course)

1) "I always feel patriotic when I come out of the OR: my whites are covered in red and it gives me the blues."

2) [Colonel Potter: "That was an order, Pierce."] "[Snaps fingers] Oh, waiter?  Would you take this man's order?"

3) "I make jokes because it's the only way I can open my mouth without screaming."

4) "I will not carry a gun, Frank.  When I got thrown into this war I had a clear understanding with the Pentagon: no guns.  I'll carry your books, I'll carry a torch, I'll carry a tune, I'll carry on, carry over, carry forward, Cary Grant, cash and carry, carry me back to Old Virginia, I'll even 'hari-kari' if you show me how, but I will not carry a gun."

5) [To Radar:] "Look, you can't lay all that on my shoulders.  Don't you know how much this place stinks?  Don't you know what it's like to stand day after day in blood?  In the blood of children?  I hate this place.  And if I can't stand up to it to your satisfaction, then...then the hell with it.  How dare you?  The hell with your Iowa naiveté, and the hell with your hero worship and your teddy bear, and while you're at it, the hell with you!  Why don't you grow up for crying out loud?  I'm not here for you to admire.  I'm here to pull bodies out of a sausage grinder, if possible without going crazy.  Period."

Want some interesting facts about the show that I find incredibly fascinating?  I thought so.  CBS did not want to the show to feature ANY scenes of surgery, hoping to keep the show 'light.'  The compromise reached was that CBS could add a laughtrack (to the dismay of the production team) but it would never be played for scenes in the OR.  It's said that 'the sun never sets on M*A*S*H,' it's always syndicated in some time zone somewhere on earth.  The show won 14 Emmys, and ended up lasting four times longer than the actual Korean War.  Alan Alda would end up writing 23 episodes and directing 36, and was nominated for 25 Emmys for his work.

Ok, I'm done.  Just don't ever badmouth M*A*S*H in my presence (I'm looking at you, "War is the H Word" episode of Futurama.  You're on my list.)  And is there any TV show theme song with more pathos than "Suicide is Painless"?  Not for me.  I think only Cheers comes close.  Which is, incidentally, the next classic show I'm going through from beginning to end.

A Marriage


You are holding up a ceiling
with both arms.  It is very heavy,
but you must hold it up, or else
it will fall down on you.  Your arms
are tired, terribly tired,
and, as the day goes on, it feels
as if either your arms or the ceiling
will soon collapse.

But then,
something wonderful happens:
a man or a woman,
walks into the room
and holds their arms up
to the ceiling beside you.

So you finally get
to take down your arms.
You feel the relief of respite,
the blood flowing back
to your fingers and arms.
And when your partner's arms tire,
you hold up your own
to relieve him again.

And it can go on like this
for many years
without the house falling.

- Michael Blumenthal

#204: Tea for the Tillerman by Cat Stevens


Tea for the Tillerman by Cat Stevens (1970)

Favorite Tracks: "Where Do the Children Play?" and "Hard-Headed Woman" and "Wild World" and "Sad Lisa" and "Miles From Nowhere" and "But I Might Die Tonight" and "Longer Boats" and "Into White" and "On the Road to Find Out" and "Father & Son" and "Tea for the Tillerman"

Thoughts: Listen.  Do you hear that?  It's the sound of me coming at you from your computer screen screaming "YES!" at the top of my lungs. Cat Stevens.  Cat Stevens, Cat Stevens, Cat Stevens, Cat Stevens.  This is the first album by the brilliant British troubadour we've seen on the list, and it damn well had better not be the last.  My parents have this record (and now I have it) and it is sublime on LP. Oh baby, let's do this.

The album opens with the lovely, inviting "Where Do the Children Play?" Then shit gets real in "Hard-Headed Woman."  The song rocks a bit harder, gets a bit darker.  Here are a few of the effing awesome lyrics:

I'm looking for a hard-headed woman,
one who will take me for myself
I'm looking for a hard-headed woman
one who will make me do my best
and if I find my hard-headed woman
I know the rest of my life will be blessed

If you look up 'hard-headed' in the dictionary, it says "not easily moved or deceived...obstinate; stubborn; willful."  Hell to the yes, Cat Stevens.  HELL YES.

You know "Wild World" is coming when you hear those first "La-la-la-la"'s.  Now, this song is a little less, uh, feminist than the last song, but it so wonderful to sing along to.  It's one of the first Cat songs I ever knew.  Love the piano.

The song "Sad Lisa" is, as you might imagine, quite sad.  Lovely string arrangement with the piano.  If my name was Lisa I would listen to this all. the. time.  So if you're name is Lisa (and I know at least one Lisa reads this blog!), have at it.  :)

"Miles From Nowhere" was featured in The Brothers Bloom (2008) which isn't that great of a movie.  A great movie that does feature it (and "Where Do the Children Play?" and two more songs off this album) is of course, Harold and Maude (1971).  And this song is tremendous, with an incredible build.

Side 2!  "But I Might Die Tonight" has a wonderful message about not spending your life trying to get ahead or working all the time.  "Longer Boats" starts out with a cute a capella sing-along, and moves into the song with ease and it keeps a kind of drinking or sailing song sort of vibe.  "Into White" is a beautiful acoustic tune, with sweet lyrics about colors and creating a home. Good grief, this music just soothes the soul and spirit.

"On the Road to Find Out" is one of my favorite Cat Stevens songs.  My dad plays it a lot, which is partly why.  I listened to it a lot in college when I was changing my mind about many long-held beliefs and ways of looking at the world.

"Father & Son" is an appropriate song to follow "On the Road to Find Out", which is basically a conversation between a father and son about how the son should live his life and find his destiny, originally written for a musical about the Russian Revolution, it ended up reflecting the generational conflict going on in Stevens' modern day (and in most others too).  It's an incredible song.

The last song is my very favorite! The title song, "Tea for the Tillerman."  It's only a minute long, but it's perfect.  The choir, the soft piano at the end.  Plus, anyone who's watched Extras has that special attachment to it too.  I love Ricky Gervais' 70s singer-songwriter songs at the end of his comedies--speaking my language. Here's Chris Martin's cover from an episode of the show (plus his duet of "Fix You" with 'Ray' one of Andy Millman's characters).

All in all, Cat Stevens is one of my top 20 artists of all time.  Play me a Cat Stevens song, I'll love you forever.

Is This Better Than The River?: Oh baby, YES.

Saint Francis and the Nun

The message Saint Francis preached to the birds,
Though not recorded, isn't beyond surmising.
He wanted his fellow creatures to taste the joy
Of singing the hymns he sang on waking,
Hymns of thanksgiving that praised creation.
Granted, the birds had problems with comprehension,
But maybe they'd grasped enough of his earnest tone
To feel that spring shouldn't be taken lightly.
An audience hard to hold, to be sure,
With a narrow attention span, a constant fluttering,
But a lot less challenging than the nun he counseled
Only this morning, a woman still young,
Dying slowly in pain, who asked him
Why if her suffering had a purpose
That purpose couldn't be clarified in a vision.
Why not at least some evidence
That the greater the suffering reserved for her
The smaller the portion reserved for others?
What a balm to be able to think as Jesus did,
That with every difficult breath of hers
Patients in sickbeds around the world
Suddenly found they were breathing easier.
What a relief for Saint Francis these birds are,
Free of the craving for explanation, for certainty
Even in winter, when the grass is hidden.  "Look!"
He calls to them, pointing.  "Those black specks
There in the snow are seed husks.  Think
As you circle down how blessed you are."
But what can he point to in the nun's spare cell
To keep her from wondering why it's so hard
For the king of heaven to comfort her?
All she can manage now is to hope for the will
Not to abandon her god, if he is her god,
In his hour of weakness.  No time to reply
To the tender homily at her bedside
As she gathers all her strength for the end,
Hoping to cry out briefly as Jesus did
When his body told him he was on his own.

- Carl Dennis

(I recently bought a used copy of Carl's New and Selected Poems: 1974-2004, and man oh man, these poems are changing my life.  I know when Holly introduced me to "The God Who Loves You" back in 2007 that he was amazing, but I continue to be floored by his poetry the more I read of it.)

poster for Kj


My friend Kj just moved to Scotland to write her PhD about Jane Eyre and Charlotte Bronte.  I read Jane Eyre because of Kj's love for it, before we were even friends (and I just stalked her on her blog).  Later, when we were 'real' friends, she let me read a paper she'd written about the book that was titled "God Did Not Give Me My Life to Throw Away" (plus a lengthy, intelligent subtitle), which I believe is a quote from the book (I'm overdue to re-read it).

I knew I wanted to make some art for her to take to Scotland, but this summer I've been in a funk where my desire for creation has been weak and infrequent.  Fortunately, about a month ago I was hit with what I wanted to do, and was able to make the poster in one night while the creative spark somehow stayed alight for a few hours despite the otherwise seemingly constant darkness of my mind and spirit.

Anyway, I really liked how it turned out.

The text before placement. (And ignore the piece in the upper left corner. That was my first 'unplanned' attempt that turned out pretty hideous.)

The text in place, plus the beginning of the 'feathers' (which actually look like small grains of rice up close) and my helpful helper, Oz:

More of the design as it grew over the evening:

And then, the finished work, one VERY sore drawing hand later:

Here's a little closer look at the detail:

Unfortunately I didn't give it to Kj in time for it to head off to Scotland with her other posters, so for now it's with me, someday to be sent off to join her there.

In case you're curious, I used gold paint Sharpies for the text, and two alternating fine point gray coloring pens that barely made it through the whole thing. I also later added gold dots to the feathers jutting off from the words "my life" but that was awhile later, so I didn't remember to photograph it.

#205: Ten by Pearl Jam


Ten by Pearl Jam (1991)

Favorite Track(s): "Once" and "Even Flow" and "Alive" and "Jeremy" and "Release"

Thoughts: I wasn't looking forward to listening to this album, considering how little I liked Vitalogy back in early 2011.  But there's a reason Ten is at #205 and that album was at #484.

It's actually appropriate that I'm listening to this now, because my latest Netflix disc was Singles (1992) which I had never seen before.  It is a veritable 90s culture smorgasbord.  I didn't really care for it, but the cameos of baby Eddie Vedder were great.

When I saw that one of the songs was titled "Alive" I automatically started singing, Alive! Alive! Alive, hallelujah!  Alive, praise and glory to the Lamb!  Anyone else?  Anyway, this is akin to when I listened to Nirvana's MTV Unplugged and was like, "Oh.  If I had known 'grunge' music could sound like this, I would have listened to it a lot more."  As one youtube commenter put it, "It doesn't get Eddie Vedder than this."

Is This Better Than The River?: Not to me, but I liked it all the same.

The Weighing


The heart's reasons
seen clearly,
even the hardest
will carry
its whip-marks and sadness
and must be forgiven.

As the drought-starved
eland forgives
the drought-starved lion
who finally takes her,
enters willingly then
the life she cannot refuse,
and is lion, is fed,
and does not remember the other.

So few grains of happiness
measured against all the dark
and still the scales balance.

The world asks of us
only the strength we have we give it.
Then it asks more, and we give it.

- Jane Hirshfield

this song is for the soil that's toxic clear down to the bedrock / where no thing of consequence can grow / drop your seeds there, let them go


Let 'em all go.

Song of the day: "Cotton" by The Mountain Goats.